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Wine 101 with Alex Guarachi

Pop quiz: what helps you taste wine, aroma or tannins? Do you even know what a tannin is? Have no fear, we're here to help! And good news: we've recruited an expert, Alex Guarachi, owner and winemaker of Guarachi Family Wine and president and CEO of TGIC Importers, which was awarded Wine Enthusiast’s Importer of the Year in 2010.

A Chilean native, when Guarachi came to the United States in the 1970s he noticed an absence of Chilean wine, even though Chile has been producing world class wine since the 16th century. Vowing to bring the wines of his country to his new homeland, he spent the next 25 years as the founder and president of TGIC Importers, the leading American importer of South American wine.

After more than two decades of tasting and selling wine for wineries around the world, Guarachi began selling his own wine, bottling Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay from vineyards in Sonoma and Napa counties. Here, Guarachi shares his tips and tricks for finding, storing, and pairing the best summer wines. 

Know the Lingo

So what do you need to know when you walk into a wine store? First, there are five key terms: aroma, viscosity, tannins, acidity, and fruit flavors of the wine.

The aroma, or the nose, is the smell of the wine in the glass and it's how you first taste wine (it can be fruity, citrusy, floral, even earthy!). The viscosity refers to the wine's consistency: the thicker the wine, the higher the level of sugars and alcohol. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds in wine that add bitterness. Acidity refers to how light a wine feels (the higher acidity, the lighter the wine). Finally, there's the fruit. Depending on what fruits you enjoy, a knowledgeable wine store associate will be able to help you pick out a vintage. 

Armed with this new vocabulary it will be much easier to identify what tastes you enjoy as well as explore some new blends. Here Guarachi suggests some beginner labels to look out for: 

For an iconic brand, Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio is an excellent introduction to a clean white wine. For a intro to red, focus on Bodega Norton Reserve Malbec, an Argentinian wine that's smooth and flavorful but won't overwhelm a beginner’s palette. For the bottle that put Chilean vineyards on the map, purchase Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon.

Next, how to buy and store wine...

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